JNU video: Did Times Now air it? Siddharth Varadarajan, Arnab trade charges

The row is over a fake video that showed JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar shouting ‘anti-India’ slogans
JNU video: Did Times Now air it? Siddharth Varadarajan, Arnab trade charges
JNU video: Did Times Now air it? Siddharth Varadarajan, Arnab trade charges
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A war of words has broken out within the media with Siddharth Varadarajan of thewire.in and Times Now’s Arnab Goswami slugging it out over the doctored video which was aired on some television channels. On Times Now, it was played by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra on his tablet live on the show.

It has since been established that, the video, which shows JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar shouting ‘anti-India’ slogans, is fake.

On Friday, in a piece for The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan took on the TV channels which aired the doctored video, and wrote, 

“From fabricating a case to resorting to violence and peddling forged ‘evidence’, all those who have worked to ruin a young life must be brought to account."

The piece outlined how the police commissioner and select TV channels like Zee, NewsX, India News and Times Now, put a fabricated video on air, without verifying if the video was true.

Vardarajan ended the report with the words:

“There is no criminal law that readily applies to the journalists who for the past ten days have engaged in the character-assassination of Kanhaiya Kumar, putting his very life in danger. Some of them have sons and daughters who are Kanhaiya’s age, and yet felt not a twinge of guilt in feeding a young man to rabid dogs. Let our contempt for them be their punishment. They are a disgrace to journalism—and to India.”

Times Now, however, would have none of this. It came down hard on Varadarajan, asking him to take down all references to Times Now in the piece. Times Now ran a statement on-air accusing The Wire of running a 'factually inaccurate' story on its channel. 

Times Now also put out a 46-second clip, titled "The Newshour clip where BJP Spokespersonis told video put on Hindi channel had to be examined and could not be taken at face value."

First clarification by Wire: In an earlier version of this article, Times Now was listed as one of the channels that broadcast the doctored tape of Kanhaiya Kumar. The channel’s head, Arnab Goswami has clarified that a BJP spokesman, Sambit Patra, sought to play the clip on his iPad during a debate but was not allowed to as the clip was not verified, and the clip was never played on the channel.

In the words of Varadarajan:

“On the afternoon of February 19, Arnab Goswami called me and insisted that Times Now had not shown the video at all and that when BJP spokesman Sambit Patra attempted to show it on air, he had stopped Patra from doing so. Taking Goswami, someone whom I have known for years, at his word, I edited the article to remove the reference to Times Now and added a note at the end.

The channel however kept telecasting the statement as they wanted all references removed from the article.

But later, after watching the entire NewsHour telecast on 17th February, 2016, Thewire.in published a new story titled: “Times Now First Denies Airing Doctored Video, Then Concedes it Did.”

Vardarajan alleged that the aim of the 46-second clip was to "absolve himself (Arnab) of any legal or moral responsibility for having aired the forged clip."

Thewire.in says, “The reality is that Arnab asked Sambit to play that clip, it was allowed to be played for a few seconds with clear audio, and Arnab also proclaims based on that audio that Kanhaiya shouted slogans for ‘Azaadi’, ostensibly for Kashmir, and then goes on to ask questions based on the doctored video. When one of the panellists, Swara Bhaskar, tells him the video is wrong, he says that the video is unverified, but the debate continues.”

Vardarajan ends his piece on the entire incident thus:

“After Anand Kumar comprehensively refutes these claims, Goswami agrees to give him the “benefit of the doubt since this video has to be examined” and concedes that “he could have been talking about azadi in another case”. But the recording of the hour-long show makes it clear that during his questioning of Kumar, Arnab had treated the contents of the fabricated video (that he had himself ordered Sambit Patra to play on air) as authentic.”

Times Now, however, sticks to its stand that it never aired the video directly and warned its viewers about the authenticity of the video.

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